Friday, January 25, 2008

12 hours and a hard fall

Date: Jan. 24
Mileage: 109.5
January mileage: 659.7
Hours: 12:15
Temperature upon arrival: 21 (forgot to check what it was when I left.)
Precipitation: 0"

I think I am really starting to get this all-day-on-a-bike thing dialed in. I finish the ride, eat a good meal, and almost instantly begin to feel fresh and halfway recovered. I almost feel as though I spent the day at work, not riding my bike. Almost. Except for the issue of the road rash on my elbow, and the dent in my hip. Well, it's not a dent, really; it's more like a lopsided purple goose egg. Either way, it's sure to become a solid streak of soreness before tomorrow. These long rides just wouldn't be the same without small disasters.

I finally peeled myself away from my warm house at 8:15 a.m. and headed directly for the Mendenhall Valley trails. The snow is really set up solid right now ... footprints, ice-covered roots and all. It's a bumpy ride. I wanted to test out the loaded-down bike on some technical stuff. The set-up actually did really well. The big handlebar bag doesn't affect the handling at all. The sheer girth of the bike actually makes it pretty fun to pilot on singletrack - like driving a monster truck over smashed cars. At Dredge Lake, I also met the only person I spoke with all day long, a man named Harry who just happened to write a response to my "Romeo the Wolf" story on NPR. Small place, this city.

While the bike handled well, continuing forward movement was another story. I am thinking about renaming Pugsley "Fat Lard." I'm fairly certain, after adding a camelback to the mix, that together we topped 200 pounds today. I was a little afraid to take him out on the ice for fear we'd go crashing through. I spent most of the day fighting the bizarre gusts of north wind, which in open areas blew at a sustained 25 mph. Even on long flat straightaways like the lake, I found myself saying things like "Well, 9 mph isn't so bad." And then it was 8. And then 7. Despite (or maybe because of) my slowness, I felt strong all day.

I headed out the road because the valley trails are only fun for so long. Snow conditions on the highway were hard and fast, but that infuriating north wind was not helping my cause. I was coasting down a long hill at Mile 38 Glacier Highway (mile 63 on my odometer) when an unexpected cross-wind gust caught me from the side and kicked the whole bike sideways. In my surprise, I over-steered toward the gust and planted my front wheel directly in a deep ice rut. An instant later, the rubber caught the edge of the rut and slammed me on the ice-covered road. It happened so quickly that I didn't even pull my arms out of my pogies. I just went down, hard. Hard enough that the impact swallowed up every last decibel of ambient noise until all I could hear was that quiet little voice of dread. It said, "There goes my hip."

Assuming bones are broken is always my first reaction to a big fall. It's strange, because I've never actually broken a bone. I guess I just assume that nothing unbroken could possibly hurt that much. I just laid there, right in the road, for quite a long time, seeing nothing but red and white sparkles and chanting "ice is hard ... ice is hard." The pain eventually subsided and I stumbled to my feet to inspect the damage to my bike (the truth is, whenever I take a big fall, I could care less what happens to my bike. I am in pain here.) I noticed the left pedal was dented in pretty severely (not like that matters. Tally one point for platform pedals.) But amazingly, my whole gear setup survived intact. The impact didn't even loosen a strap. (Tally one point for crashproof gearbags.) The red blinkie attached to my seat stays also broke off. I wouldn't learn this until it got dark.

This is the spot where I learned the red blinkie had broken off my frame. I have a spare, but it can only attach to my camelback, which meant I had to leave my camelback outside my coat, which of course meant my hose froze in about 30 minutes (I swear, I blow and blow the water out until my face turns blue.) My hip was really sore and this made me grumpy for most of two hours. I mean, this ride was hard enough before the throbbing hip. But as that pain wore off, I began to feel much better. The wind died down (of course, this just had to happen when it would have finally been a tailwind.) The stars came out. The night felt cool and calm. I had a baggie full of Triscuits - this black pepper flavored kind, which at home I find somewhat revolting but after double-digit hours on a bicycle, there's nothing better. Life was good.